1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Friends, Society of
FRIENDS, SOCIETY OF, the name adopted by a body of Christians, who, in law and general usage, are commonly called Quakers. Though small in number, the Society occupies a position of singular interest. To the student of ecclesiastical history it is remarkable as exhibiting a form of Christianity widely divergent from the prevalent types, being a religious fellowship which has no formulated creed demanding definite subscription, and no liturgy, priesthood or outward sacrament, and which gives to women an equal place with men in church organization. The student of English constitutional history will observe the success with which Friends have, by the mere force of passive resistance, obtained, from the legislature and the courts, indulgence for all their scruples and a legal recognition of their customs. In American history they occupy an important place because of the very prominent part which they played in the colonization of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The history of Quakerism in England may be divided into three periods: — (1) from the first preaching of George Fox in 1647 to the Toleration Act 1689; (2) from 1689 to the evangelical movement in 1835; (3) from 1835 to the present time.
1. Period 1647-1689. — George Fox (1624-1691), the son of a weaver of Drayton-in-the-Clay (now called Fenny Drayton) in George Fox. Leicestershire, was the founder of the Society. He began his public ministry in 1647, but there is no evidence to show that he set out to form a separate religious body. Impressed by the formalism and deadness of contemporary Christianity (of which there is much evidence in the confessions of the Puritan writers themselves) he emphasized the importance of repentance and personal striving after the truth. When, however, his preaching attracted followers, a community began to be formed, and traces of organization and discipline may be noted in very early times. In 1652 a number of people in Westmorland and north Lancashire who had separated from the common national worship, came under the influence of Fox, and it was this community (if it can be so called) at Preston Patrick which formed the nucleus of the Quaker church. For two years the movement spread rapidly throughout the north of England, and in 1654 more than sixty ministers went to Norwich, London, Bristol, the Midlands, Wales and other parts. Fox and his fellow-preachers spoke whenever opportunity offered, — sometimes in churches (declining, for the most part, to occupy the pulpit), sometimes in barns, sometimes at market crosses. The insistence on an inward spiritual experience was the great contribution made by Friends to the religious life of the time, and to thousands it came as a new revelation. There is evidence to show that the arrangement for this “publishing of Truth” rested mainly with Fox, and that the expenses of it and of the foreign missions were borne out of a common fund. Margaret Fell (1614-1702), wife of Thomas Fell (1598-1658), vice-chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and afterwards of George Fox, opened her house, Swarthmore Hall near Ulverston, to these preachers and probably contributed largely to this fund.
Their insistence on the personal aspect of religious experience made it impossible for Friends to countenance the setting apart of any man or building for the purpose of divine worship to the exclusion of all others. The operation of the Spirit was in no way limited to time, or individual or place. The great stress which they laid upon this aspect of Christian truth caused them to be charged with unbelief in the current orthodox views as to the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the person and work of Christ, a charge which they always denied. Contrary to the Puritan teaching of the time, they insisted on the possibility, in this life, of complete victory over sin. Robert Barclay, writing some twenty years later, admits of degrees of perfection, and the possibility of a fall from it (Apology, Prop. viii.). Such teaching necessarily brought Fox and his friends into conflict with all the religious bodies of England, and they were continually engaged in strife with the Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, Episcopalians and the wilder sectaries, such as the Ranters and the Muggletonians. The strife was often conducted on both sides with a zeal and bitterness of language which were characteristic of the period. Although there was little or no stress laid on either the joys or the terrors of a future life, the movement was not infrequently accompanied by most of those physical symptoms which usually go with vehement appeals to the conscience and emotions of a rude multitude. It was owing to these physical manifestations that the name “Quaker” was either first given or was regarded as appropriate when given for another reason (see Fox's Journal concerning Justice Bennet at Derby in 1650 and Barclay's Apology, Prop. 11, § 8). The early Friends definitely asserted that those who did not know quaking and trembling were strangers to the experience of Moses, David and other saints.
Some of the earliest adherents indulged in extravagances of no measured kind. Some of them imitated the Hebrew prophets in the performance of symbolic acts of denunciation, foretelling or warning, going barefoot, or in sackcloth or undress, and, in a few cases, for brief periods, altogether naked; even women in some cases distinguished themselves by extravagance of conduct. The case of James Nayler (1617?-1660), who, in spite of Fox's grave warning, allowed Messianic homage to be paid to him, is the best known of these instances; they are to be explained partly by mental disturbance, resulting from the undue prominence of a single idea, and partly by the general religious excitement of the time and the rudeness of manners prevailing in the classes of society from which many of these individuals came. It must be remembered that at this time, and for long after, there was no definite or formal membership or system of admission to the society, and it was open to any one by attending the meetings to gain the reputation of being a Quaker.
The activity of the early Friends was not confined to England or even to the British Isles. Fox and others travelled in America and the West India Islands; another reached Jerusalem and preached against the superstition of the monks; Mary Fisher (fl. 1652-1697), “a religious maiden,” visited Smyrna, the Morea and the court of Mahommed IV. at Adrianople; Alexander Parker (1628-1689) went to Africa; others made their way to Rome; two women were imprisoned by the Inquisition at Malta; two men passed into Austria and Hungary; and William Penn, George Fox and several others preached in Holland and Germany.
It was only gradually that the Quaker community clothed itself with an organization. The beginning of this appears to be due to William Dewsbury (1621-1688) and George Fox; it was not until 1666 that a complete system of church organization was established. The introduction of an ordered system and discipline was, naturally, viewed with some suspicion by people taught to believe that the inward light of each individual man was the only true guide for his conduct. The project met with determined opposition for about twenty years (1675-1695) from persons of considerable repute in the body. John Wilkinson and John Story of Westmorland, together with William Rogers of Bristol, raised a party against Fox concerning the management of the affairs of the society, regarding with suspicion any fixed arrangement for meetings for conducting church business, and in fact hardly finding a place for such meetings at all. They stood for the principle of Independency against the Presbyterian form of church government which Fox had recently established in the “Monthly Meetings” (see below). They opposed all arrangement for the orderly distribution of travelling ministers to different localities, and even for the payment of their expenses (see above); they also strongly objected to any disciplinary power being entrusted to the women's separate meetings for business, which had become of considerable importance after the Plague (1665) and the Fire of London (1666) in consequence of the need for poor relief. They also claimed the right to meet secretly for worship in time of persecution (see below). They drew a considerable following away with them and set up a rival organization, but before long a number returned to their original leader. William Rogers set forth his views in The Christian Quaker, 1680; the story of the dissension is told, to some extent, in The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, by R. Barclay (not the “Apologist”); the best account is given in a pamphlet entitled Micah's Mother by John S. Rowntree.
Robert Barclay (q.v.), a descendant of an ancient Scottish family, who had received a liberal education, principally in Paris, at the Scots College, of which his uncle was rector, joined the Quakers about 1666, and William Penn (q.v.) came to them about two years later. The Quakers had always been active controversialists, and a great body of tracts and papers was issued by them; but hitherto these had been of small account from a literary point of view. Now, however, a more logical and scholarly aspect was given to their literature by the writings of Barclay, especially his Apology for the True Christian Divinity published in Latin (1676) and in English (1678), and by the works of Penn, amongst which No Cross No Crown and the Maxims or Fruits of Solitude are the best known.
During the whole time between their rise and the passing of the Toleration Act 1689, the Quakers were the object of almost Persecution. continuous persecution which they endured with extraordinary constancy and patience; they insisted on the duty of meeting openly in time of persecution, declining to hold secret assemblies for worship as other Nonconformists were doing. The number who died in prison approached 400, and at least 100 more perished from violence and ill-usage. A petition to the first parliament of Charles II. stated that 3179 had been imprisoned; the number rose to 4500 in 1662, the Fifth Monarchy outbreak, in which Friends were in no way concerned, being largely responsible for this increase. There is no evidence to show that they were in any way connected with any of the plots of the Commonwealth or Restoration periods. A petition to James II. in 1685 stated that 1460 were then in prison. Under the Quaker Act of 1662 and the Conventicle Act of 1664 a number were transported out of England, and under the last-named act and that of 1670 (the second Conventicle Act) hundreds of households were despoiled of all their goods. The penal laws under which Friends suffered may be divided chronologically into those of the Commonwealth and the Restoration periods. Under the former there were a few charges of plotting against the government. Several imprisonments, including that of George Fox at Derby in 1650-1651, were brought about under the Blasphemy Act of 1650, which inflicted penalties on any one who asserted himself to be very God or equal with God, a charge to which the Friends were peculiarly liable owing to their doctrine of perfection. After a royalist insurrection in 1655, a proclamation was issued announcing that persons suspected of Roman Catholicism would be required to take an oath abjuring the papal authority and transubstantiation. The Quakers, accused as they were of being Jesuits, and refusing to take the oath, suffered under this proclamation and under the more stringent act of 1656. A considerable number were flogged under the Vagrancy Acts (39 Eliz. c. 4; 7 Jac. I. c. 4), which were strained to cover the case of itinerant Quaker preachers. They also came under the provisions of the acts of 1644, 1650 and 1656 directed against travelling on the Lord's day. The interruption of preachers when celebrating divine service rendered the offender liable to three months' imprisonment under a statute of the first year of Mary, but Friends generally waited to speak till the service was over. The Lord's Day Act 1656 also enacted penalties against any one disturbing the service, but apart from statute many Friends were imprisoned for open contempt of ministers and magistrates. At the Restoration 700 Friends, imprisoned for contempt and some minor offences, were set at liberty. After the Restoration there began a persecution of Friends and other Nonconformists as such, notwithstanding the king's Declaration of Breda which had proclaimed liberty for tender consciences as long as no disturbance of the peace was caused. Among the most common causes of imprisonment was the practice adopted by judges and magistrates of tendering to Friends (particularly when no other charge could be proved against them) the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance (5 Eliz. c. 1 & 7 Jac. I. c. 6). The refusal in any circumstance to take an oath led to much suffering. The Act 3 Jac. I. c. 4, passed in consequence of the Gunpowder Plot, against Roman Catholics for not attending church, was put in force against Friends, and under it enormous fines were levied. The Quaker Act 1662 and the Conventicle Acts of 1664 and 1670, designed to enforce attendance at church, and inflicting severe penalties on those attending other religious gatherings, were responsible for the most severe persecution of all. The act of 1670 gave to informers a pecuniary interest (they were to have one-third of the fine imposed) in hunting down Nonconformists who broke the law, and this and other statutes were unduly strained to secure convictions. A somewhat similar act of 35 Eliz. c. 1., enacting even more severe penalties, had never been repealed, and was sometimes put in force against Friends. The Militia Act 1663 (14 Car. II. c. 3), enacting fines against those who refused to find a man for the militia, was occasionally put in force. The refusal to pay tithes and other ecclesiastical demands led to continuous and heavy distraints, under the various laws made in that behalf. This state of things continued to some extent into the 19th century. For further information see “The Penal Laws affecting Early Friends in England” (from which the foregoing summary is taken) by Wm. Chas. Braithwaite in The First Publishers of Truth. On the 15th of March 1672 Charles II. issued his declaration suspending the penal laws in ecclesiastical matters, and shortly afterwards, by pardon under the great seal, he released nearly 500 Quakers from prison, remitted their fines and released such of their estates as were forfeited by praemunire. It is of interest to note that, although John Bunyan was bitterly opposed to Quakers, his friends, on hearing of the petition contemplated by them, requested them to insert his name on the list, and in this way he gained his freedom. The dissatisfaction which this exercise of the royal prerogative aroused induced the king, in the following year, to withdraw his proclamation, and, notwithstanding appeals to him, the persecution continued intermittently throughout his reign. On the accession of James II. the Quakers addressed him (see above) with some hope on account of his known friendship for William Penn, and the king not long afterwards directed a stay of proceedings in all matters pending in the exchequer against Quakers on the ground of non-attendance at the national worship. In 1687 came his declaration for liberty of conscience, and, after the Revolution of 1688, the Toleration Act 1689 put an end to the persecution of Quakers (along with other Dissenters) for non-attendance at church. For many years after this they were liable to imprisonment for non-payment of tithes, and, together with other Dissenters, they remained under various civil disabilities, the gradual removal of which is part of the general history of England. In the years succeeding the Toleration Act at least twelve of their number were prosecuted (often more than once in the spiritual and other courts) for keeping school without a bishop's licence. It is coming to be recognized that the growth of religious toleration owed much to the early Quakers who, with the exception of a few Baptists at the first, stood almost alone among Dissenters in holding their public meetings openly and regularly.
The Toleration Act was not the only law of William and Mary which benefited Quakers. The legislature has continually had regard to their refusal to take oaths, and not only the said act but also another of the same reign, and numerous others, subsequently passed, have respected the peculiar scruples of Friends (see Davis's Digest of Legislative Enactments relating to Friends, Bristol, 1820).
2. Period 1689-1835. — From the beginning of the 18th century the zeal of the Quaker body abated. Although many Period of Decline. “General” and other meetings were held in different parts of the country for the purpose of setting forth Quakerism, the notion that the whole Christian church would be absorbed in it, and that the Quakers were, in fact, the church, gave place to the conception that they were “a peculiar people” to whom, more than to others, had been given an understanding of the will of God. The Quakerism of this period was largely of a traditional kind; it dwelt with increasing emphasis on the peculiarities of its dress and language; it rested much upon discipline, which developed and hardened into rigorous forms; and the correction or exclusion of its members occupied more attention than did the winning of converts.
Excluded from political and municipal life by the laws which required either the taking of an oath or joining in the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Established Church, excluding themselves not only from the frivolous pursuits of pleasure, but from music and art in general, attaining no high average level of literary culture (though producing some men of eminence in science and medicine), the Quakers occupied themselves mainly with trade, the business of their Society, and the calls of philanthropy. From early times George Fox and many others had taken a keen interest in education, and in 1779 there was founded at Ackworth, near Pontefract, a school for boys and girls; this was followed by the reconstitution, in 1808, of a school at Sidcot in the Mendips, and in 1811, of one in Islington Road, London; it was afterwards removed to Croydon, and, later, to Saffron Walden. Others have since been established at York and in other parts of England and Ireland. None of them are now reserved exclusively for the children of Friends.
During this period Quakerism was sketched from the outside by two very different men. Voltaire (Dictionnaire Philosophique, “Quaker,” “Toleration”) described the body, which attracted his curiosity, his sympathy and his sneers, with all his brilliance. Thomas Garkson (Portraiture of Quakerism) has given an elaborate and sympathetic account of the Quakers as he knew them when be travelled amongst them from house to house on his crusade against the slave trade.
3. From 1835. — During the 18th century the doctrine of the Inward Light acquired such exclusive prominence as to bring about a tendency to disparage, or, at least, to neglect, the written word (the Scriptures) as being “outward” and non-essential. In the early part of the 19th century an American Friend, Elias Hicks, pressed this doctrine to its furthest limits, and, in doing so, be laid stress on “Christ within” in such a way as practically to take little account of the person and work of the “outward,” i.e. the historic Christ. The result was a separation of the Society in America into two divisions which persist to the present day ( below, “Quakerism in America”). This led to a counter movement in England, known as the Beacon Controversy, from the name of a warning publication issued by Isaac Crewdson of Manchester in 1835, advocating views of a pronounced “evangelical” type. Much controversy ensued, and a certain number of Friends (Beaconites as they are sometimes called) departed from the parent stock. They left behind them, however, many influential members, who may be described as a middle party, and who strove to give a more “evangelical” tone to Quaker doctrine. Joseph John Gurney of Norwich, a brother of Elizabeth Fry, by means of his high social position and his various writings (some published before 1835), was the most prominent actor in this movement. Those who quitted the Society maintained, for some little time, a separate organization of their own, but sooner or later most of them joined the Evangelical Church or the Plymouth Brethren.
Other causes have been at work modifying the Quaker society. The repeal of the Test Act, the admission of Quakers to Parliament in consequence of their being allowed to affirm instead of taking the oath (1832, when Joseph Pease was elected for South Durham), the establishment of the University of London, and, more recently, the opening of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to Nonconformists, have all had their effect upon the body. It has abandoned its peculiarities of dress and language, as well as its hostility to music and art, and it has cultivated a wider taste in literature. In fact, the number of men, either Quakers or of Quaker origin and proclivities, who occupy positions of influence in English life is large in proportion to the small body with which they are connected. During the 19th century the interests of Friends became widened and they are no longer a close community.
Doctrine. — It is not easy to state with certainty the doctrines of a body which (in England at least) has never demanded subscription to any creed, and whose views have undoubtedly undergone more or less definite changes. There is not now the sharp distinction which formerly existed between Friends and other non-sacerdotal evangelical bodies; these have, in theory at least, largely accepted the spiritual message of Quakerism. By their special insistence on the fact of immediate communion between God and man, Friends have been led into those views and practices which still mark them off from their fellow-Christians.
Nearly all their distinctive views (e.g. their refusal to take oaths, their testimony against war, their disuse of a professional ministry, and their recognition of women's ministry) were being put forward in England, by various individuals or sects, in the strife which raged during the intense religious excitement of the middle of the 17th century. Nevertheless, before the rise of the Quakers, these views were nowhere found in conjunction as held by any one set of people; still less were they regarded as the outcome of any one central belief or principle. It is rather in their emphasis on this thought of Divine communion, in their insistence on its reasonable consequences (as it seems to them), that Friends constitute a separate community. The appointment of one man to preach, to the exclusion of others, whether he feels a divine call so to do or not, is regarded as a limitation of the work of the Spirit and an undue concentration of that responsibility which ought to be shared by a wider circle. For the same reason they refuse to occupy the time of worship with an arranged programme of vocal service; they meet in silence, Public worship. desiring that the service of the meeting shall depend on spiritual guidance. Thus it is left to any man or woman to offer vocal prayer, to read the Scriptures, or to utter such exhortation or teaching as may seem to be called for. Of late years, in certain of their meetings on Sunday evening, it has become customary for part of the time to be occupied with set addresses for the purpose of instructing the members of the congregation, or of conveying the Quaker message to others who may be present, all their meetings for worship being freely open to the public. In a few meetings hymns are occasionally sung, very rarely as part of any arrangement, but almost always upon the request of some individual for a particular hymn appropriate to the need of the congregation. The periods of silence are regarded as times of worship equally with those occupied with vocal service, inasmuch as Friends hold that robustness of spiritual life is best promoted by earnest striving on the part of each one to know the will of God for himself, and to be drawn into Christian fellowship with the other worshippers. The points on which special stress is laid are: — (1) the share of responsibility resting on each individual, whether called to vocal service or not, for the right spiritual atmosphere of the Meeting, and for the welfare of the congregation; (2) the privilege which may be enjoyed by each worshipper of waiting upon the Lord without relying on spoken words, however helpful, or on other outward matters; (3) freedom for each individual (whether a Friend or not) to speak, for the help of others, such message as he or she may feel called to utter; (4) a fresh sense of a divine call to deliver the message on that particular occasion, whether previous thought has been given to it or not. The idea which ought to underlie a Friends' meeting is thus set forth by Robert Barclay: “When I came into the silent assemblies of God's people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart, and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up” (Apology, xi. 7). In many places Friends have felt the need of bringing spiritual help to those who are unable to profit by the somewhat severe discipline of their ordinary manner of worship. To meet this need they hold (chiefly on Sunday evenings) meetings which are not professedly “Friends' meetings for worship,” but which are services conducted on lines similar to those of other religious bodies, with, in some cases, a portion of time set apart for silent worship, and freedom for any one of the congregation to utter words of exhortation or prayer.
From the beginning Friends have not practised the outward ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, even in a non-sacerdotal spirit. They attach, however, supreme value to the realities of which the observances are reminders or types on the Baptism which is more than putting away the filth of the flesh, and on the vital union with Christ which is behind any outward ceremony. Their testimony is not primarily against these outward observances; their disuse of them is due to a sense of the danger of substituting the shadow for the reality. They believe that an experience of more than 250 years gives ample warrant for the belief that Christ did not command them as a perpetual outward ordinance; on the contrary, they hold that it was alien to His method to lay down minute, outward rules for all time, but that He enunciated principles which His Church should, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, apply to the varying needs of the day. Their contention that every event of life may be turned into a sacrament, a means of grace, is summed up in the words of Stephen Grellet: “I very much doubt whether, since the Lord by His grace brought me into the faith of His dear Son, I have ever broken bread or drunk wine, even in the ordinary course of life, without the remembrance of, and some devout feeling regarding, the broken body and the blood-shedding of my dear Lord and Saviour.”
When the ministry of any man or woman has been found to be helpful to the congregation, the Monthly Meeting (see below) Ministers. may, after solemn consideration, record the fact that it believes the individual to have a divine call to the ministry, and that it encourages him or her to be faithful to the gift. Such ministers are said to be “acknowledged” or “recorded”; they are emphatically not appointed to preach, and the fact of their acknowledgment is not regarded as conferring any special status upon them. The various Monthly Meetings appoint Elders, or some body of Friends, to give advice of encouragement or restraint as may be needed, and, generally, to take the ministry under their care.
With regard to the ministry of women, Friends hold that there is no evidence that the gifts of prophecy and teaching are Women. confined to one sex. On the contrary, they see that a manifest blessing has rested on women's preaching, and they regard its almost universal prohibition as a relic of the seclusion of women which was customary in the countries where Christianity took its rise. The particular prohibition of Paul (1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35) they regard as due to the special circumstances of time and place.
Friends have always held that war is contrary to the precepts and spirit of the Gospel, believing that it springs from the lower impulses of human nature, and not from the seed of divine life with its infinite capacity of response to the Spirit of God. Their War. testimony is not based primarily on any objection to the use of force in itself, or even on the fact that war involves suffering and loss of life; their root objection is based on the fact that war is both the outcome and the cause of ambition, pride, greed, hatred and everything that is opposed to the mind of Christ; and that no end to be attained can justify the use of such means. While not unaware that with this, as with all moral questions, there may be a certain borderland of practical difficulty, Friends endeavour to bring all things to the test of the Realities which, though not seen, are eternal, and to hold up the ideal, set forth by George Fox, of living in the virtue of that life and power which takes away the occasion of war.
Friends have always held that the attempt to enforce truth-speaking by means of an oath, in courts of law and elsewhere, Oaths. tends to create a double standard of truth. They find Scripture warrant for this belief in Matt. v. 33-37 and James v. 12. Their testimony in this respect is the better understood when we bear in mind the large amount of perjury in the law courts, and profane swearing in general which prevailed at the time when the Society took its rise. “People swear to the end that they may speak truth; Christ would have men speak truth to the end they might not swear” (W. Penn, A Treatise of Oaths).
With regard to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, the belief of the Society of Friends does not essentially differ Theology. from that of other Christian bodies. At the same time their avoidance of exact definition embodied in a rigid creed, together with their disuse of the outward ordinances of Baptism and the Supper, has laid them open to considerable misunderstanding. As will have been seen, they hold an exalted view of the divinity and work of Christ as the Word become flesh and the Saviour of the world; but they have always shrunk from rigid Trinitarian definitions. They believe that the same Spirit who gave forth the Scriptures still guides men to a right understanding of them. “You profess the Holy Scriptures: but what do you witness and experience? What interest have you in them? Can you set to your seal that they are true by the work of the same spirit in you that gave them forth in the holy ancients?” (William Penn, A Summons or Call to Christendom). At certain periods this doctrine, pushed to an extreme, has led to a practical undervaluing of the Scriptures, but of late times it has enabled Friends to face fearlessly the conclusions of modern criticism, and has contributed to a largely increased interest in Bible study. During the past few years a new movement has been started in the shape of lecture schools, lasting for longer or shorter periods, for the purpose of studying Biblical, ecclesiastical and social subjects. In 1903 there was established at Woodbrooke, an estate at Selly Oak on the outskirts of Birmingham, a permanent settlement for men and women, for the study of these questions on modern lines. The outward beginning of this movement was the Manchester Conference of 1895, a turning-point in Quaker history. Speaking generally, it may be noted that the Society includes various shades of opinion, from that known as “evangelical,” with a certain hesitation in receiving modern thought, to the more “advanced” position which finds greater freedom to consider and adopt new suggestions of scientific, religious or other thinkers. The differences, however, are seldom pressed, and rarely become acute. Apart from points of doctrine which can be more or less definitely stated (not always with unanimity) Quakerism is an atmosphere, a manner of life, a method of approaching questions, a habit and attitude of mind.
Quakerism in Scotland. — Quakerism was preached in Scotland very soon after its rise in England; but in the north and south of Scotland there existed, independently of and before this preaching, groups of persons who were dissatisfied with the national form of worship and who met together in silence for devotion. They naturally fell into this Society. In Aberdeen the Quakers took considerable hold, and were there joined by some persons of influence and position, especially Alexander Jaffray, sometime provost of Aberdeen, and Colonel David Barclay of Ury and his son Robert, the author of the Apology. Much light has been thrown on the history of the Quakers in Aberdeenshire by the discovery in 1826 at Ury of a MS. Diary of Jaffray, since published with elucidations (2nd ed., London, 1836).
Ireland — The father of Quakerism in Ireland was William Edmondson; his preaching began in 1653-1654. The History of the Quakers in Ireland (from 1653 to 1752), by Wight and Rutty, may be consulted. Dublin Yearly Meeting, constituted in 1670, is independent of London Yearly Meeting (see below).
America. — In July 1656 two women Quakers, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, arrived at Boston. Under the general law against heresy their books were burnt by the hangman, they were searched for signs of witchcraft, they were imprisoned for five weeks and then sent away. During the same year eight others were sent back to England.
In 1656, 1657 and 1658 laws were passed to prevent the introduction of Quakers into Massachusetts, and it was enacted that on the first conviction one ear should be cut off, on the second the remaining ear, and that on the third conviction the tongue should be bored with a hot iron. Fines were laid upon all who entertained these people or were present at their meetings. Thereupon the Quakers, who were perhaps not without the obstinacy of which Marcus Aurelius complained in the early Christians, rushed to Massachusetts as if invited, and the result was that the general court of the colony banished them on pain of death, and four of them, three men and one woman, were hanged for refusing to depart from the jurisdiction or for obstinately returning within it. That the Quakers were, at times, irritating cannot be denied: some of them appear to have publicly mocked the institutions and the rulers of the colony and to have interrupted public worship; and a few of their men and women acted with the fanaticism and disorder which frequently characterized the religious controversies of the time. The particulars of the proceedings of Governor Endecott and the magistrates of New England as given in Besse's Sufferings of the Quakers (see below) are startling to read. On the Restoration of Charles II. a memorial was presented to him by the Quakers in England stating the persecutions which their fellow-members had undergone in New England. Even the careless Charles was moved to issue an order to the colony which effectually stopped the hanging of the Quakers for their religion, though it by no means put an end to the persecution of the body in New England.
It is not wonderful that the Quakers, persecuted and oppressed at home and in New England, should turn their eyes to the unoccupied pans of America, and cherish the hope of founding, amidst their woods, some refuge from oppression, and some likeness of a city of God upon earth. As early as 1660 George Fox was considering the question of buying land from the Indians. In 1671-1673 he had visited the American plantations from Carolina to Rhode Island and had preached alike to Indians and to settlers; in 1674 a portion of New Jersey (q.v.) was sold by Lord Berkeley to John Fenwicke in trust for Edward Byllynge. Both these men were Quakers, and in 1675 Fenwicke with a large company of his co-religionists crossed the Atlantic, sailed up Delaware Bay, and landed at a fertile spot which he called Salem. Byllynge, having become embarrassed in his circumstances, placed his interest in the land in the hands of Penn and others as trustees for his creditors; they invited buyers, and companies of Quakers in Yorkshire and London were amongst the largest purchasers. In 1677-1678 five vessels with eight hundred emigrants, chiefly Quakers, arrived in the colony (then separated from the rest of New Jersey, under the name of West New Jersey), and the town of Burlington was established. In 1677 the fundamental laws of West New Jersey were published, and recognized in a most absolute form the principles of democratic equality and perfect freedom of conscience. Notwithstanding certain troubles from claims of the governor of New York and of the duke of York, the colony prospered, and in 1681 the first legislative assembly of the colony, consisting mainly of Quakers, was held. They agreed to raise an annual sum of £200 for the expenses of their commonwealth; they assigned their governor a salary of £20; they prohibited the sale of ardent spirits to the Indians and imprisonment for debt. (See New Jersey.)
But beyond question the most interesting event in connexion with Quakerism in America is the foundation by William Penn William Penn. (q.v.) of the colony of Pennsylvania, where he hoped to carry into effect the principles of his sect — to found and govern a colony without armies or military power, to reduce the Indians by justice and kindness to civilization and Christianity, to administer justice without oaths, and to extend an equal toleration to all persons who professed a belief in God. The history of this is part of the history of America and of Pennsylvania (q.v.) in particular. The chief point of interest in the history of Friends in America during the 18th century is their effort to clear themselves of complicity in slavery and the slave trade. As early as 1671 George Fox when in Barbados counselled kind treatment of slaves and ultimate liberation of them. William Penn provided for the freedom of slaves after fourteen years' service. In 1688 the German Friends of Germantown, Philadelphia, raised the first official protest uttered by any religious body against slavery. In 1711 a law was passed in Pennsylvania prohibiting the importation of slaves, but it was rejected by the Council in England. The prominent anti-slavery workers were Ralph Sandiford, Benjamin Lay, Anthony Benezet and John Woolman. By the end of the 18th century slavery was practically extinct among Friends, and the Society as a whole laboured for its abolition, which came about in 1865, the poet Whittier being one of the chief writers and workers in the cause. From early times up to the present day Friends have laboured for the welfare of the North American Indians. The history of the 19th century is largely one of division. Elias Hicks (q.v.), of Long Island, N.Y., propounded doctrines inconsistent with the orthodox views concerning Christ and the Scriptures, and a separation resulted in 1827-1828 (see above). His followers are known as “Hicksites,” a name not officially used by themselves, and only assented to for purposes of description under some protest. They have their own organization, being divided into seven yearly meetings numbering about 20,000 members, but these meetings form no part of the official organization which links London Yearly Meeting with other bodies of Friends on the American continent. This separation led to strong insistence on “evangelical” views (in the usual sense of the term) concerning Christ, the Atonement, imputed righteousness, the Scriptures, &c. This showed itself in the Beaconite controversy in England (see above), and in a further division in America. John Wilbur, a minister of New England, headed a party of protest against the new evangelicalism, laying extreme stress on the “Inward Light”; the result was a further separation of “Wilburites” or “the smaller body,” who, like the “Hicksites,” have a separate independent organization of their own. In 1907 they were divided into seven yearly meetings (together with some smaller independent bodies, the result of extreme emphasis laid on individualism), with a membership of about 5000. Broadly speaking, the “smaller body” is characterized by a rigid adherence to old forms of dress and speech, to a disapproval of music and art, and to an insistence on the “Inward Light” which, at times, leaves but little room for the Scriptures or the historic Christ, although with no definite or intended repudiation of them. In 1908 the number of “orthodox” yearly meetings in America, including one in Canada, was fifteen, with a total membership of about 100,000. They have, for the most part, adopted, to a greater or less degree, the “pastoral system,” i.e. the appointment of one man or woman in each congregation to “conduct” the meeting for worship and to carry on pastoral work. In most cases the pastor receives a salary. A few of them demand from their ministers definite subscription to a specific body of doctrine, mostly of the ordinary “evangelical” type. In the matters of organization, disuse of the outward ordinances (this point is subject to some slight exception, principally in Ohio), and women's ministry, they do not differ from English Friends. The yearly meetings of Baltimore and Philadelphia have not adopted the pastoral system; the latter contains a very strong conservative element, and, contrary to the practice of London and the other “orthodox” yearly meetings, it officially regards the meetings of “the smaller body” (see above) as meetings of the Society of Friends. In 1902 the “orthodox” yearly meetings in the United States established a “Five Years' Meeting,” a representative body meeting once every five years to consider matters affecting the welfare of all, and to further such philanthropic and religious work as may be undertaken in common, e.g. matters concerning foreign missions, temperance and peace, and the welfare of negroes and Indians. Two yearly meetings remain outside the organization, that of Ohio on ultra-evangelical grounds, while that of Philadelphia has not taken the matter into consideration. Canada joined at the first, and having withdrawn, again joined in 1907.
See James Bowden, History cf the Society of Friends in America (1850-1854); Allan C. and Richard H. Thomas, The History of Friends in America (4th edition, 1905); Isaac Sharpless, History of Quaker Government in Pennsylvania (1898, 1899); R. P. Hallowell, The Quaker Invasion of Massachusetts (1887), and The Pioneer Quakers (1887).
Organization and Discipline. — The duty of watching over one another for good was insisted on by the early Friends, and has been embodied in a system of discipline. Its objects embrace (a) admonition to those who fail in the payment of their just debts, or otherwise walk contrary to the standard of Quaker ethics, and the exclusion of obstinate or gross offenders from the body, and, as incident to this, the hearing of appeals from individuals or meetings considering themselves aggrieved; (b) the care and maintenance of the poor and provision for the Christian education of their children, for which purpose the Society has established boarding schools in different parts of the country; (c) the amicable settlement of “all differences about outward things,” either by the parties in controversy or by the submission of the dispute to arbitration, and the restraint of all proceedings at law between members except by leave; (d) the “recording” of ministers (see above); (e) the cognizance of all steps preceding marriage according to Quaker forms; (f) the registration of births, deaths and marriages and the admission of members; (g) the issuing of certificates or letters of approval granted to ministers travelling away from their homes, or to members removing from one meeting to another; and (h) the management of the property belonging to the Society. The meetings for business further concern themselves with arrangements for spreading the Quaker doctrine, and for carrying out various religious, philanthropic and social activities not necessarily confined to the Society of Friends.
The present organization of the Quaker church is essentially democratic; every person born of Quaker parents is a member, and, Periodic “meetings.” together with those who have been admitted on their own request, is entitled to take part in the business assemblies of any meeting of which he or she is a member. The Society is organized as a series of subordinated meetings which recall to the mind the Presbyterian model. The “Preparative Meeting” usually consists of a single congregation; next in order comes the “Monthly Meeting,” the executive body, usually embracing several Preparative Meetings called together, as its name indicates, monthly (in some cases less often); then the “Quarterly Meeting,” embracing several Monthly Meetings; and lastly the “Yearly Meeting,” embracing the whole of Great Britain (but not Ireland). After several yearly or “general” meetings had been held in different places at irregular intervals as need arose, the first of an uninterrupted series met in 1668. From that date until 1904 it was held in London. In 1905 it met in Leeds, and in 1908 in Birmingham. Its official title is “London Yearly Meeting.” It is the legislative body of Friends in Great Britain. It considers questions of policy, and some of its sittings are conferences for the consideration of reports on religious, philanthropic, educational and social work which is carried on. Its sessions occupy a week in May of each year. Representatives are sent from each inferior to each superior meeting, but they have no precedence over others, and all Friends may attend any meeting and take part in any of which they are members. Formerly the system was double, the men and women meeting separately for their own appointed business. Of late years the meetings have been, for the most part, held jointly, with equal liberty for all men and women to state their opinions, and to serve on all committees and other appointments. The mode of conducting these meetings is noteworthy. A secretary or “clerk,” as he is called, acts as chairman or president; there are no formal resolutions; and there is no voting or applause. The clerk ascertains what he considers to be the judgment of the assembly, and records it in a minute. The permanent standing committee of the Society is known as the “Meeting for Sufferings” (established in 1675), which took its rise in the days when the persecution of many Friends demanded the Christian care and material help of those who were able to give it. It is composed of representatives (men and women) sent by the quarterly meetings, and of all recorded Ministers and Elders. Its work is not confined to the interests of Friends; it is sensitive to the call of oppression and distress (e.g. a famine) in all parts of the world, it frequently raises large sums of money to alleviate the same, and intervenes, often successfully, and mostly without publicity, with those in authority who have the power to bring about an amelioration.
The offices known to the Quaker body are: (1) that of minister (the term “office” is not strictly applicable, see above as to “recording”); (2) of elder, whose duty it is “to encourage and help young ministers, and advise others as they, in the wisdom of God, see occasion”; (3) of overseer, to whom is especially entrusted that duty of Christian care for and interest in one another which Quakers recognize as obligatory in all the members of a church. In most Monthly Meetings the care of the poor is committed to the overseers. These officers hold, from time to time, meetings separate from the general assemblies of the members, but the special organization for many years known as the Meeting of Ministers and Elders, reconstituted in 1876 as the Meeting on Ministry and Oversight, came to an end in 1906-1907.
This present form both of organization and of discipline has been reached only by a process of development. As early as 1652-1654 there is evidence of some slight organization for dealing with marriages, poor relief, “disorderly walkers,” matters of arbitration, &c. The Quarterly or “General” meetings of the different counties seem to have been the first unions of separate congregations. In 1666 Fox established Monthly Meetings; in 1727 elders were first appointed; in 1752 overseers were added; and in 1737 the right of children of Quakers to be considered as members was fully recognized. Concerning the 18th century in general, see above.
Of late years the stringency of the Quaker discipline has been relaxed: the peculiarities of dress and language have been abandoned; marriage with a non-member or between two non-members is now possible at a Quaker meeting-house; and marriage elsewhere has ceased to involve exclusion from the body. Above all, many of its members have come to “the conviction, which is not new, but old, that the virtues which can be rewarded and the vices which can be punished by external discipline are not as a rule the virtues and the vices that make or mar the soul” (Hatch, Bampton Lectures, 81).
A genuine vein of philanthropy has always existed in the Quaker body. In nothing has this been more conspicuous than in the Philanthropic interests. matter of slavery. George Fox and William Penn laboured to secure the religious teaching of slaves. As early as 1676 the assembly of Barbados passed “An Act to prevent the people called Quakers from bringing negroes to their meetings.” On the attitude of Friends in America to slavery, see the section “Quakerism in America” (above). In 1783 the first petition to the House of Commons for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery went up from the Quakers; and in the long agitation which ensued the Society took a prominent part.
In 1798 Joseph Lancaster, himself a Friend, opened his first school for the education of the poor; and the cause of unsectarian religious education found in the Quakers steady support. They also took an active part in Sir Samuel Romilly's efforts to ameliorate the penal code, in prison reform, with which the name of Elizabeth Fry (a Friend) is especially connected, and in the efforts to ameliorate the condition of lunatics in England (the Friends' Retreat at York, founded in 1792, was the earliest example in England of kindly treatment of the insane). It is noteworthy that Quaker efforts for the education of the poor and philanthropy in general, though they have always been Christian in character, have not been undertaken primarily for the purpose of bringing proselytes within the body, and have not done so to any great extent.
By means of the Adult Schools, Friends have been able to exercise a religious influence beyond the borders of their own Society. The Education. movement began in Birmingham in 1845, in an attempt to help the loungers at street corners; reading and writing were the chief inducements offered. The schools are unsectarian in character and mainly democratic in government: the aim is to draw out what is best in men and to induce them to act for the help of their fellows. Whilst the work is essentially religious in character, a well-equipped school also caters for the social, intellectual and physical parts of a man's nature. Bible teaching is the central part of the school session: the lessons are mainly concerned with life's practical problems. The spirit of brotherliness which prevails is largely the secret of the success of the movement. At the end of 1909 there were in connexion with the “National Council of Adult-School Associations” 1818 “schools” for men with a membership of about 113,789; and 402 for women with a membership of about 27,000. The movement, which is no longer exclusively under the control of Friends, is rapidly becoming one of the chief means of bringing about a religious fellowship among a class which the organized churches have largely failed to reach. The effect of the work upon the Society itself may be summarized thus: some addition to membership; the creation of a sphere of usefulness for the younger and more active members; a general stirring of interest in social questions.
A strong interest in Sunday schools for children preceded the Adult School movement. The earliest schools which are still existing were formed at Bristol, for boys in 1810 and for girls in the following year. Several isolated efforts were made earlier than this; it is evident that there was a school at Lothersdale near Skipton in 1800 “for the preservation of the youth of both sexes, and for their instruction in useful learning”; and another at Nottingham. Even earlier still were the Sunday and day schools in Rossendale, Lancashire, dating from 1793. At the end of 1909 there were in connexion with the Friends' First-Day School Association 240 schools with 2722 teachers and 25,215 scholars, very few of whom were the children of Friends. Not included in these figures are classes for children of members and “attenders,” which are usually held before or during a portion of the time of the morning meeting for worship; in these distinctly denominational teaching is given. Monthly organ, Teachers and Taught.
A “provisional committee” of members of the Society of Friends was formed in 1865 to deal with offers of service in foreign lands. Foreign ministries. In 1868 this developed into the Friends' Foreign Mission Association, which now undertakes Missionary work in India (begun 1866), Madagascar (1867), Syria (1869), China (1886), Ceylon (1896). In 1909 the number of missionaries (including wives) was 113; organized churches, 194; members and adherents, 21,085; schools, 135; pupils, 7042; hospitals and dispensaries, 17; patients treated, 6865; subscriptions raised from Friends in Great Britain and Ireland, £26,689, besides £3245 received in the fields of work. Quarterly organ, Our Missions.
Statistics of Quakerism. — At the close of 1909 there were 18,686 Quakers (the number includes children) in Great Britain; and “associates” and habitual “attenders” not in membership, 8586; number of congregations regularly meeting, 390. Ireland — members. 2528; habitual attenders not in membership, 402.
The central offices and reference library of the Society of Friends are situate at Devonshire House, Bishopsgate Without, London.
Bibliography. — The writings of the early Friends are very numerous: the most noteworthy are the Journals of George Fox and of Thomas Ellwood, both autobiographies, the Apology and other works of Robert Barclay, and the works of Penn and Penington. Early in the 18th century William Sewel, a Dutch Quaker, wrote a history of the Society and published an English translation; modern (small) histories have been written by T. Edmund Harvey (The Rise of the Quakers) and by Mrs Emmott (The Story of Quakerism). The Sufferings of the Quakers by Joseph Besse (1753) gives a detailed account of the persecution of the early Friends in England and America. An excellent portraiture of early Quakerism is given in William Tanner's Lectures on Friends in Bristol and Somersetshire. The Book of Discipline in its successive printed editions from 1783 to 1906 contains the working rules of the organization, and also a compilation of testimonies borne by the Society at different periods, to important points of Christian truth, and often called forth by the special circumstances of the time. The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth (London, 1876) by Robert Barclay, a descendant of the Apologist, contains much curious information about the Quakers. See also “Quaker” in the index to Masson's Life of Milton. Joseph Smith's Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books (London, 1867) gives the information which its title promises; the same author has also published a catalogue of works hostile to Quakerism. For an exposition of Quakerism on its spiritual side many of the poems by Whittier may be referred to, also Quaker Strongholds and Light Arising by Caroline E. Stephen; The Society of Friends, its Faith and Practice, and other works by John Stephenson Rowntree, A Dynamic Faith and other works by Rufus M. Jones; Authority and the Light Within and other works by Edw. Grubb, aad the series of “Swarthmore Lectures” as well as the histories above mentioned. Much valuable information will be found in John Stephenson Rowntree: His Life and Work (1908). The history of the modern forward movement may be studied in Essays and Addresses by John Wilhelm Rowntree, and in Present Day Papers edited by him. The social life of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th is portrayed in Records of a Quaker Family, the Richardsons of Cleveland, by Mrs Boyce, and The Diaries of Edward Pease, the Father of English Railways, edited by Sir A. E. Pease. Other works which may usefully be consulted are the Journals of John Woolman, Stephen Grellet and Elizabeth Fry; also The First Publishers of Truth, a reprint of contemporary accounts of the rise of Quakerism in various districts. The periodicals issued (not officially) in connexion with the Quaker body are The Friend (weekly), The British Friend (monthly), The Friends' Witness, The Friendly Messenger, The Friends' Fellowship Papers, The Friends' Quarterly Examiner, Journal of the Friends' Historical Society. Officially issued: The Book of Meetings and The Friends' Year Book. See also works mentioned at the close of sections on Adult Schools and on Quakerism in America, Scotland and Ireland, and elsewhere in this article; also Fox, George.
- (A. N. B.)
- At the time referred to, and during the Commonwealth, the pulpits of the cathedrals and churches were occupied by Episcopalians of the Richard Baxter type, Presbyterians, Independents and a few Baptists. It is these, and not the clergy of the Church of England, who are continually referred to by George Fox as “priests.”
- On the whole subject of preaching “after the priest had done,” see Barclay's Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, ch. xii.
- Woolman's Journal and Works are remarkable. He had a vision of a political economy based not on selfishness but on love, not on desire but on self-denial.
- See A History of the Adult School Movement by J. W. Rowntree and H. B. Binns. The organ of the movement is One and All, published monthly. See also The Adult School Year Book.